Tour de France: Remco Evenepoel powers to stage seven time trial victory

Remco Evenepoel won the first ­individual time trial in the 2024 Tour de France, after beating current race leader, Tadej Pogacar, in the 23.5km “race of truth”.

In his debut Tour, the former Vuelta a España champion ­Evenepoel has so far shown himself to be the biggest obstacle to Pogacar taking a third ­yellow jersey in Nice, with the defending champion, Jonas ­Vingegaard still short of his best form.

“I was on a good day,” ­Evenepoel said. “The climb was actually pretty tough. “I wanted to start fast and had to keep something for the climb, which wasn’t easy, but I enjoyed every metre of this time trial. Coming out with the win is simply amazing.”

On the rolling course through the vineyards of the Cote d’Or, the ­Soudal Quick-Step rider, watched by his entire family at the roadside, was the fastest at every time check, but as he entered the final 3km, the Belgian slowed when he appeared to have mechanical problems.

“I was pretty sure I had a puncture, but maybe somebody in the public dropped a glass or something,” he said of his momentary pause. “It was exactly the same sound as a puncture, so I was a bit scared.”

But the 24-year-old world time trial champion, now a winner of stages in all three Grand Tours, recovered from his scare to beat Pogacar by 12sec and the defending champion, the Visma Lease-a-bike leader, ­Vingegaard, by 37sec.

“I had to take risks because I knew Tadej was pretty close to me,” Evenepoel said. “But in the end victory is amazing. Tadej can also do very good time trials in Grand Tours, so it was a close one. But I just wanted to win today.”

Vingegaard is battling hard but the double Tour winner has now slipped further behind Pogacar, and has 1:15 to make up to his Slovenian rival. Also showing better form is Primoz Roglic, third in the time trial and now just 16 seconds behind the Dane.

Jonas Vingegaard has struggled to keep pace with his general classification rivals so far. Photograph: Anne-Christine Poujoulat/AFP/Getty Images

In a discipline dominated by ­technology and aerodynamics, power remains the decisive factor and Evenepoel proved the most adept at that, speeding towards Gevrey-Chambertin at 87km an hour.

Vingegaard may have started the stage well, initially looking every inch the time triallist that memorably won last year’s key time trial to Combloux, in the shadow of Mont Blanc, but as he entered the closing kilometres, his lack of hard racing this spring began to show.

Little by little, Vingegaard’s hopes of defending his title are ebbing away. Fifty seconds ceded in Valloire, after the stage over the Col du Galibier, have morphed into a 1:15 deficit to the yellow jersey after the first ­individual time trial.

It was not a great afternoon either, for the Ineos Grenadiers, who, had it not been for the valiant effort of ­Carlos Rodríguez – seventh overall after the stage – would have slipped into the ranks of also-rans.

Evenepoel, by contrast, for a rider whose weakness was thought to be racing at high altitude, will be buoyed up by his performance on the Galibier and exhilarated by a time trial ­victory that clawed back time on UAE ­Emirates team leader Pogacar.

Yet even after increasing his advantage over Vingegaard, Pogacar displayed a surprising sense of ennui when asked how he was feeling about the stages to come.

“This year’s Tour is a bit strange,” he said. “There’s nothing to look forward to. Tomorrow is another ­stressful day, then another ­stressful day, then the rest day. Then another stressful day and another stressful day.” Evenepoel, however, described his debut Tour as “a lovely experience.”

“I think it’s going well,” he said. “I’m really enjoying it and taking a stage win in my first Tour is special. I’m proud and happy about being here.”

The Guardian